Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 Kellogg’s/CarQuest Auto Parts Impala SS met with members of the media at Infineon Raceway and discussed returning to road course racing, changes in GM support, the success of his season and other topics.Q: Do you think you will be able to return to road course racing with the same success you had in previous years of your career?Mark Martin:
The road course racing has evolved over the years. They used to be some of the most fun races that we did. For me, the last six years or so that we ran them, they became much more of a challenge because all the drivers are really good at it now and all the teams put just as much emphasis on the road course race as they do every other race. Where back in the day, road racing was not – the teams didn’t have the where with all to focus on the road courses. It was a little bit less intense. This is a tough deal right now with the competition like it is – it’s very, very difficult to pass and very dependent on fuel mileage and track position and all those things. They weren’t at the top of my list to do, but definitely had fun at Road Atlanta. The car seemed good and if we get it good here then we’ll do good. If we don’t then we’ll battle it to the end.Q: How have your results so far compared to what your expectations were entering the year?Mark Martin:
I’m very cautious about expectations. I feel like a huge portion of my discontent and frustration in my career has been based on not meeting expectations. You know what I said, I said that I took this job with hopes that I might win a race and after we get one then we’ll worry about multiple. That’s kind of where I’m at. It’s a dream come true to win three races before halfway for anybody in this sport – I don’t care who you are. For me, it’s beyond that. Things are going really well with Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the team. We’ve had some horrendous bad luck and we’ve also had some really good fortune – enough to certainly take the sting away from the bad luck and disappointments we’ve experienced.Q: Are you interested in racing against Juan Pablo Montoya?Mark Martin:
One of the reasons I wanted to stick around was Juan Montoya was coming to NASCAR. I wanted to be around to see that and be a part of that and be able to race with him and stuff. That holds true on an oval as well as a road course. It’s obvious he shines everywhere he goes, but definitely he started out really shining here. It’s fun, but I really feel that way not only on a road course – I feel like he shines everyday that he straps in that thing. I believe that what he has done is incredible – to come to this sport from the racing that he came from and to do what he’s done and what he’s doing every week is pretty spectacular.Q: Do members of the media over-think what the drivers are doing and talking about regarding their racecars?Mark Martin:
You can simplify it – sometimes the media does, for me because I’m a real simple guy, they do tend to over-analyze and really look for a lot more than is going on. To give you a little bit of information, I had hoped that we would run well – Alan Gustafson and I would do well together and we would have good runs and do well. I don’t feel like it would have been very realistic to expect – we could have run just as good as we’ve run to this point and not won any races just like that. It’s unbelievable how – and I’ll tell you, and I don’t know how we’ve done it.
Just like the incredible success that I had in IROC – I don’t know how I did it, I don’t know how it happened and I can’t explain it. This is kind of the same way. We didn’t have a magical weekend at Pocono by any means, even though we ran well. We have had a good, solid dose of things just working out spectacular and we’ve had a good dose of things not working out so well. Like pitting and it raining at Daytona – first thing out of the gate, pitting in Charlotte and them not going back to green. Not being in a position to capitalize on fuel mileage at Pocono was tough. Breaking two engines back to back and then having a tire fail us the next week. We’ve had the gamut of things, but the thing that we’ve done is we’ve really worked hard at keeping an even keel. The reason I tell you all that is that I’m prepared to go through another spell somewhere as I’m strapped in that 5 car, where everything doesn’t work out magically. But, I think there’s plenty of potential for magic as well. We just keep doing our deal and take them on our days and do the best we can when its not our day.”Q: How do you think Hendrick Motorsports will weather the cuts from General Motors?Mark Martin:
I will tell you what I know and I will kind of work backwards on that. Being a dealer, I’m real excited – really, really excited that the company is going to emerge from this better, stronger, leaner and really exciting products coming down the pike. I’m excited to be one of the dealers that managed to make the cut. I’m new at Hendrick and I really don’t know exactly what his deals are other than he’s committed to GM 100 percent and I do know that GM is committed to NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports. I do know that and I do know that they asked for some relief right now and Mr. Hendrick is happy to provide some relief. I know the commitment is very, very strong.
I think I know the level or the roundabout area that manufacturer’s involvement is in a race team’s overall budget, and for most race teams I don’t think it will put them out of business, if you know what I mean. I don’t want to minimize it, I’ll say that everybody is feeling pain and all the race teams are having to – we’re experiencing a correction, just as the stock market or just like your average citizen, many of the people that are fortunate enough to be keeping their jobs may have to take a cut in pay – this is kind of the same thing.Q: Are you using any of the racing simulations?Mark Martin:
No, I’m not. I pretty much remember this racetrack (Infineon Raceway). I have run a number of laps in my head – it’s the same thing as simulation. I’m as prepared as I can be and that included running laps and shifting the gears – running laps in my head.”Q: For a guy with a bad back, how does racing at Infineon compare to other tracks?Mark Martin:
I was fortunate, as excruciating of back pain as I had, the racecar was the most comfortable place, just about, that I could get. It liked the seat, it liked fitting, so from that standpoint I guess I was pretty lucky. This is a real physical race. They’re all dependent on how your car works, but this one is a physical race and it gets really hot, and if you don’t have a really great car – I’ve come out of here cherry red before, I can tell you that. It’s been hot out here a few times, especially when they had a red flag here one year and they stopped us up there on the other end and I thought we were going to melt!
The forecast looks good for Sunday; it’s going to be cooler than it is today and tomorrow and that’s good. From Jeff’s (Gordon) standpoint, I’m not sure how that will affect him. I know that some of the short tracks are tougher on him than the bigger racetracks. I would say that this one will be a test of that.”Q: Having won three races this season, are you at the point where you could declare this season a success no matter what happens the rest of the year?Mark Martin:
Oh yes, absolutely. I’m obviously in a position where I’m 100 percent bound and determined to be happy. This has been a great success this season, no matter what happens going forward.”